Changing climate poses grim consequences locally

By: JOYCE DOHERTY

“Every year, you’re seeing the warmest year on record,” says AP Environmental Science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin. “And the warmer it gets, the more severe effects it will have on the environment and the world as we know it.”

 At a presentation at Middlebury Institute of International Studies titled “The Sky Is Not Falling, But the Seas Are Rising,” marine ecologist Dr. Brendan P. Kelly explained the effects of climate change on the local area.

“One of the many misunderstandings of global warming is that heat is not distributed evenly throughout the Earth,” Kelly said. “Overall there is a heat balance, but not everywhere. It’s like a fever where your head might be too warm while your fingers are cold.”

Working as a partner of the warming atmosphere, winds and currents are formed through convection, where warm waters will rise to the surface, making it easier for wind and sea currents to alter the temperature.

“Ocean currents move the warmer waters north which affect both the ocean and air around it,” Kelly said. “Some recent examples would be the hurricanes whose intensity was expanded as a result of the warmer waters.”

In terms of local agriculture, saltwater intrusion will affect the irrigation systems by intruding into aquifers as a result of rising sea levels, according to Kelly. Under a certain composition of salt water, crops may fail and could prove fatal to 20 percent of the county workforce who are employed in agriculture.

According to the Climate Change and Health Report Monterey County from February, California includes 2,000 miles of open coastline and enclosed bay. Models predict a 66 percent increase in sea levels, making the long coastline susceptible to severe storms and high tides.

Seventy five to eighty percent of California’s freshwater comes from the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack. As the temperature continues to rise, the reserve continues to dwindle in size as a projected nine-inch decrease is expected leaving less than four inches by March 2090 according to National Geographic.

The snowpack in 2015 was the lowest it had been in California ever, according to National Public Radio. In contrast, due to the heavy rains the snowpack of 2017 was one of the largest recorded, even larger than the last four years combined

However, many climate scientists are claiming that as the climate begins to vary, the snowpack and the rivers that take in the melted water may experience the extremes, from drought to flooding. This summer, the melting snowpack led to raging rivers, such as the Kern River.

While the future seems grim, local agencies, such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby Monterey have proposed possible solutions to mitigate or prevent these effects. The lobby has proposed national legislation, Carbon Fee and Dividend.

 Another presenter at the presentation, Tom Erb, a public policy analysis and politics student at Pomona College and the national field organizer for Our Climate, explained that putting a price on carbon will mitigate the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.

“Putting a price on carbon is the future of the green economy,” Erb said. “We need to force the polluters to pay for their pollution.”

What is more concerning than the environment is the stability of society and governance, according to Maas-Baldwin.

“In the case of Syria, many fingers point to the war being a result of a major drought causing massive demographic change,” Maas-Baldwin says. “The geopolitical stability of the world depends on a world that exists within a certain parameter of temperature.”